New Lottery Bid For Jesus Green – Meeting on 27 July 2011

Notice taped to Jesus Green noticeboard - photo taken before it got very wet.

Notice taped to Jesus Green noticeboard – photo taken before it got very wet.

The Jesus Green Association is holding a special general meeting on Wednesday the 27th of July at 1930 in Wesley Methodist Church. Outline proposals for a new bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund are to be discussed.

The meeting has been advertised on a piece of paper taped to the outside of the window of the organisation’s noticeboard. It has got very wet in the last week or so. The JGA appear to be so disorganised they’ve not been able to get the key to their noticeboard in the hands of the person putting the notice up. The JGA website has not been updated since February 2011 so contains no mention of the meeting. The meeting has not been advertised on the Cambridge City Council website, despite the fact the council owns Jesus Green.

Neither the council or the JGA have published the proposals to be discussed in advance of the meeting (I am writing one week before the event). It is not clear if the event is open to the press and public, other groups such as boaters, skate park users, Parkside school, those running businesses on the green, the friends of the pool and others or if it is only open to Jesus Green Association members. In the past the JGA has opened its AGMs to the public.

The proposals have been developed during a series of secret meetings between the JGA and Cambridge City Council officers. Some of these have been under the title “Jesus Green Working Group” and others described as Heritage Lottery Fund Project meetings. Due to the lack of proactively published material and the secrecy surrounding the process of developing the proposals I used mySociety’s Freedom of Information website WhatDoTheyKnow to make a FOI request, in public, for the papers of the secret meetings.

It is notable that the executive councillor for green spaces, Cllr Cantrill, has attended very few of the gatherings; this is a distinct change from his predecessor Cllr Julie Smith who chaired the Jesus Green working group (ref) when she was in charge.

In 2009 a previous lottery bid which involved plans to fell 59 trees and pave over huge swathes of grass was rejected by the lottery, I suspect, at least in part due to massive public objection to the council’s “development” proposals.

While we don’t yet have details of the new proposals the key things I’d like to see are:

  • Improvements to the paths and drainage.
  • Consideration of making the Jesus Lock crossing more cycle friendly (perhaps in conjunction with works to Chesterton Road.
  • No loss of trees.
  • Rennovation of the toilets.
  • Lighting which is more reliable, and makes the area safe, and feel safe, especially for evening commuters.

According to the documents released in response to my FOI request the latest meeting of the secret committee, a “Jesus Green Group” meeting was held on the 1st of July. No elected councillors were present. It indicates:

  • The deadline for the submission of the bid is the 31st of August.
  • At least part of the application is to be made available at the JGA meeting on the 27th of July.
  • A report was to be prepared for the Community Services Scrutiny Committee; there has not been a meeting of that committee since the 1st of June, so nothing has entered the public domain yet via the city council committee process.
  • Moving the EDF substation is by the plane tree avenue is being discussed.
  • Proposals include altering the paths by the Jesus Lock bridge.
  • Rennovation of the Rouse Pavilion: Community use for the building could include showers for boaters and visitor moorings.
  • Tennis court refurbishment is still proposed; this will involve loss of green space. I have written about this previously in my article: More threats to the Green Space on Jesus Green, previously Park Street school had not been consulted on their possible use of the new all weather space, there is no sign of this having been rectified.
  • Demolition of wooden bowls pavilion is still on the todo list, as it has been for years.

Notes from previous meetings:

  • May 2011: A Community Café is an option for the pavilion (where the toilets are). However when the new contract for running the pool is up that might include a cafe, two probably not sustainable. If the kiosk would be retained too is questioned.
  • May 2011: Trinity College may help with costs of renovating the pavilion (10% of a £1m bid to the lottery would need to be funded from elsewhere).
  • May 2011: The council and JGA are only going to consult after submission of “stage one” of the bid. Cambridge City Council officer Sarah Tovell is minuted as saying:

    This time the development phase of the project would be undertaken between stage one and two, where as before it had to be done before the first submission.

    The consultation is likely not to be to 2012.

  • May 2011: Inclusion of Cam Conservators owned lock cottage considered, but might delay process. (Also a income generating investment owned by the Conservators – not something I think the lottery ought be supporting!)
  • April 2011: Trinity College have expressed an interest in the application and possible match funding for elements of the bid connected to the renovation of Rouse Ball Pavilion.
  • April 2011: Some of the match funding required could come from approved S106 (development tax) projects if they could fit in with the time scales of the bid without significantly delaying their implementation.
  • April 2011: Items to be included:
    • Rouse Pavilion
    • Paths & access
    • Drainage
    • Improved river access
    • Development of lock keepers cottage
  • April 2011: Pip (Pip Noon, highly paid, head of paid staff at the Cam Conservators) highlighted the benefits of improving the river access along Jesus Green and the Conservators of the Cam and other boating organisations would support this improvement. This would also link into the Chypps play boat project.
  • Mar 2011: Says bowls pavilion demolition scheduled for April/May (It didn’t happen)
  • Feb 2011: Punt operators stopped from storing punts in the bowls pavilion.
  • Feb 2011: Beer festival organisers offered to help pay for improvements to entrance on Victoria Ave, including my proposal of a strengthened “hammer head”.

The Spectacular Jesus Green Plane Tree Avenue

4 responses to “New Lottery Bid For Jesus Green – Meeting on 27 July 2011”

  1. First of all thank you so much Richard for another investigative coup. It does seem a feature of these schemes that they’re done behind closed doors and it’s somewhat scandalous that you have to resort to Freedom of Information tools to find out something that should be firmly and openly in the public domain.
    There is a real need for repairs to paths on the Green but yet again the Council appear to be more attracted to the sexier business of ‘transforming’ the space, something that people simply don’t want.
    It does seem to me that simple maintenance is almost beyond the wit of the combined forces of the Council and the increasingly slowed-down force that is the JGA.
    After a whole summer of discussion about barbecue damage, there has been the strangest response in the form of unannounced and unexplained barbecue installations on the grass ( I think they may be in themselves in contravention of the bye laws) but when the sun does come out , there is little in the form of supervision protection for the lawned areas or heaven forfend, enforcement . The litter problem is equally dire and unregulated meanwhile the only suggestions appears to be to take down the perfectly serviceable wooden pavilion and replace it with – er – nothing. I don’t quite see the reasoning of losing a facility like this .
    If the chaos of the past bids to change Jesus Green is about to be upon us we’re in for an exhausting time. The tennis courts like most things on the Green simply need some spiffing up and I do agree with you that there should not be a loss of green space.
    I know that discussion is necessary but there is so much talk about the simplest things – recycling bins there have been n the agenda for years and nothing has eventuated. Can we not simply opt for a quiet maintenance and careful improvement of Jesus Green not these giddy grand schemes costing millions?

  2. Anne, have you tried working with the Council(s) – if you did it would certainly manage your expectations 🙁

  3. Since I published this article, and tweeted about it Save our Spaces Cambridge have publicised the meeting to their “announce” email list, and tweeted about it. Cambridge City Council have also tweeted about it and promised to do so again nearer the time.

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